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Abstract

The paper is based on my ethnographic fieldwork in Przemyśl, Poland and several surrounding villages in 2015-2017. While conducting my research on a set of religious practices and pilgrimages in confessionally and ethnically mixed localities, I faced many challenges that changed the main course of my initial research plan. During my interaction with people here themes came to light that seemed little related to religiousness. My status as a researcher from Ukraine and even more so, my being a young single woman from Ukraine, gave rise to a number of other topics that my interlocutors, both of Polish and Ukrainian origin were eager to discuss.

One of the most important themes in these conversations was the Polish-Ukrainian relations in the interwar period, during WW II and after it. Not wanting or intending to, I was involved in discussions about reciprocal traumas and the bloodiest pages in Polish-Ukrainian history, like the ethnic cleansings and forcible resettlements of 1944-1947. These discussions were very difficult for me, too. Still, the material I received helped me to better understand the complexity of factors contributing to religious identity of average persons, including post-memory phenomena. It is well known and has been thoroughly described that anthropologists have been seen as being ‘betwixt and between’. Diplomacy in the field was a huge trial for me. I could observe the imaginary borders between me, as a ‘foreign other’, and several ethnically and religiously diverse groups of neighbours, who have been forged together by their memories of ‘alien locals’ or ‘domestic others’. This observation could become the starting point for a further stage of research.

Thus, in this paper I intend to use the concept of “everyday diplomacy” as forms of interaction and exchange that occur over religion in borderlands contact zones (Marsden, Ibanez-Tirado, Henig 2016). These everyday encounters serve as a means to know and engage otherness by maintaining trade, civility, cosmopolitan and ecumenical outlooks, and often ambiguity. The “everyday diplomacy” refer to a set of practices that hold social relations between categorically different social actors together in a specific context (Henig 2017). A focus on “everyday diplomacy” enables anthropologists to engage in comparative research that moves beyond nation-state or confessional frames to consider how historicity and politics shape religious practices, memory issues and perceptions of history more broadly.

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